Al-Farouq Aminu will give Orlando Magic a much-needed boost

Al-Farouq Aminu is nearing a return to the court for the Orlando magic after nearly a year out with an injury. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Al-Farouq Aminu is nearing a return to the court for the Orlando magic after nearly a year out with an injury. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Before Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls, Al-Farouq Aminu was on the Amway Center floor alone with Mike Batiste. All the other players, all playing in the game, had finished their pregame routines. It was just Al-Farouq Aminu, a coach and the basket.

There is a lot of solitude that comes from getting back from an injury. A lot of lonely days going through drills trying to get your body right. There is still that uncertainty of when you will actually make it back.

Aminu’s workouts last week were likely his first on the Amway Center floor since he tore the meniscus in his right knee in December 2019. It has been an arduous journey — the first of a long line of injuries that have arrested the Orlando Magic’s development.

Soon though, perhaps as early as Tuesday, Aminu will be back on the court for a game. He had been practicing with the team some for the last few weeks.

The Magic upgraded his status after Aminu went through the team’s practice Monday. Aminu no longer appears on the team’s injury report. Coach Steve Clifford said the team will check on how he feels in the morning, but it appears likely Aminu will make his return against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

After more than a year since he last played, Al-Farouq Aminu appears set to return to the court for the Orlando Magic. And his presence could be a much-welcomed one for a struggling defense.

For a Magic team that needs some stability, especially on defense, his return will be more than welcome.

"“We’ve been battling a lot of injuries this year,” James Ennis said after the Magic’s practice on Monday. “Unfortunately, you can’t really control that. I’m happy for Chief coming back. Definitely can stretch the floor. He’s a really good ballplayer. I’m excited to see him.”"

It has been a long time since he has been on the floor. It has been easy to forget just how much he can contribute.

Aminu last played Nov. 29 when he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. He tried to rehab it through treatment. But after making progress on his return, he had a setback in January that would eventually require surgery. He would miss the rest of the season, with the team opting to keep him from joining the team inside the bubble.

The journey took another twist when Aminu had a procedure to clean up some debris in his knee just before the season started. His return to the court has been slow, to say the least.

At first glance, this does not look like a huge addition to the lineup. Last year, Aminu averaged a career-low 4.3 points per game and a career-worst 34.3-percent effective field goal percentage. He added 4.8 rebounds per game in his 21.1 minutes per game across 18 games last season.

The shooting numbers were a major concern. The Magic signed him knowing he was not a great shooter. But he uncharacteristically struggled from the interior too. Aminu was struggling even to make layups.

The Magic certainly hoped that this was an aberration, trusting his experience in the league to carry the day. That is what they signed him for after all.

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  • They also signed him for his defense. And, here, the numbers are not so obvious. But Aminu was one of the best defenders for the Magic last season.

    Until Aminu’s injury on Nov. 29, the Magic had a 104.1 defensive rating. They would finish the season at 109.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.

    With Al-Farouq Aminu on the floor at that time, the Magic had a 100.1 defensive rating (only Mohamed Bamba had a better on-court rating and the two shared the floor a lot). The team had a 104.8 defensive rating with Aminu off the floor, the worst mark of any regular rotation player at the time.

    Al-Farouq Aminu trailed only Jonathan Isaac at that point of the season in deflections, according to, with 2.0 per game and trailed only Isaac among non-centers in contested shots with 6.3 per game.

    According to’s shot dashboard, opponents shot just 45.4-percent against shots Aminu defended, slightly below the average when he was on the floor.

    That is not everything and Aminu’s offense took away a lot of that defensive impact. But this is what Aminu has built his career on. It is safe to say he had a big part on this impact and this is not just noise.

    Further, according to data from Basketball-Index, Aminu ranked in the 90th percentile or better in loose ball steals (4.7 per 75 possessions) and passing lane defense (5.3 bad pass steals and deflections per 75 possessions).

    By almost any defensive metric, Aminu had a positive impact on the Magic.

    No one would consider Aminu as disruptive a defender as Isaac. But the Magic built their defense early in the season with solid positioning and Isaac’s ability to make plays as the free safety in the paint. But they were able to keep that pressure up with Aminu’s strong understanding of positioning.

    For a team that is currently 25th in defensive rating, adding someone who can potentially be this disruptive will be a huge boost for the team.

    There will need to be some patience as he returns, but the Magic understand what an impact Aminu can make for this team quickly as he gets up to speed.

    "“He’s a veteran player who has played a ton of minutes in this league but you have to be realistic about what expectations are,” Clifford said after practice Monday. “He’s going to be rusty and it’s going to take him some time to get back into rhythm. I’m sure there will be minute restrictions. I do think no matter what he can bring a physicality and a level of organization to our team that would help us a great deal right now.”"

    The Magic need anything they can find right now to increase their energy and intensity, especially on defense. And adding some new players to the rotation — and Aminu will surely get time, something that is probably not lost on fans hoping Bamba could somehow find his way into the rotation (that is not in the cards at this point, according to Clifford) — is probably the only way right now to create some change.

    Aminu is a solid and consistent player, someone who can execute the team’s defensive gameplan well. And that is what the Magic need right now. They need someone who can execute solidly and play well.

    Next. Nikola Vucevic is in the background no more. dark

    Aminu has obviously been out for a long time. there will be mistakes in the process. But the Magic are hoping their big free-agent signing of the summer of 2019 can start to come through for him now that he finally appears to be healthy enough to play.